Behind the Whistle: It’s a Beautiful Day for Lacrosse


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Jessica Wilkinson is the head coach at Marist College.

One of my former coaches sent me a picture of a post-it note I once left on her desk as a player. It simply reads, “It is a beautiful day for lacrosse,” and has my signed name. Over 13 years later, it’s still with her, now framed on a new desk at another program.

I remember when I first got into coaching, the same coach would mention that note. First it started with, “It’s in my wallet, I still have it.” Then, she would mention it every now and again on the recruiting trail. And just recently I received the picture via text this summer, unfolded and framed in her office.

It’s not until now, particularly after this last year, that I’ve come to understand the importance of that note.

For my coach, this note serves as reminder — maybe from one of her first head coaching days or the team that came with that memory. We won our first conference championship under her leadership, and I know that’s a significant time for both of us. But I hope she knows that, above all, she provided me the type of environment as a player that allowed me to express myself in a post-it note.

She gave me the green light to be happy, to be myself and to still be competitive and overall excited for the game. So much so that I needed to write it out, express it and share it with her.

Today, I want to provide that for my players, especially since they need it more than ever. The past two seasons for our program have been rough. Of course, COVID ended the 2020 season, but our institution had a 40-day campus-wide pause this past spring that left us stuck with absolutely no practices or meetings and stripped us of five conference games from an already abbreviated season. We ended up with 16 total practices and eight games. It challenged our team members and my staff in ways I never thought imaginable. Like many programs, this was a “bigger than us” decision that we had to overcome, no matter how brutal. It was ugly, but we conquered it together — and we gave everything we could until the last overtime loss.

Now, heading into what everyone hopes will be a “normal year,” I start to think about all the things our program needs to catch up on. It’s a lot – I mean monumental.

But nothing is as important right now as reigniting the players’ love for the game again. And to start, I need to reignite it in myself first. I do love this game. It’s brought me opportunity, community and challenge. It’s provided a lifestyle for my family and most likely will for many years to come. And after a really tough year — where you start to question a lot — I still crave those great moments for players when they nail it, when they step up and win the moment or the play or the game.

Because everyone knows there’s no better feeling as a player — or coach — when you see the hard work pay off, and we rise above all the noise and succeed. I want that for our team; I want players to fall in love with it all over again. So, providing that culture and environment will be paramount. I know it’s not fitness related, IQ related or skill related (don’t worry team, we’ll work at multiple aspects of our game at once…), but it’s so important that we authentically love what we do. Because it’s not always going to go as planned — and in the end, if you love it enough, it’s worth the struggle.

I still believe in that note. I still believe that “it is a beautiful day for lacrosse,” and I’m more than excited to move forward into a new year with it in mind. And you know what’s really cool? I now sit at the very desk I once left that note on over 13 years ago.

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